Christmas Day in London 2018: Things to do in the capital on December 25

Jochan Embley, Lizzie Thomson

There's more to December 25 than TV Christmas specials and falling asleep on the sofa.

Though the majority of London will be shutting down on the big day, there are still plenty of things to do across the capital.

Whether you're experiencing family-related cabin fever or you just fancy a change from brussels sprouts and board games, London has plenty of alternatives to staying inside.

From walking tours to ice skating, these are some of the best ways to spend Christmas Day in the capital.

Watch the Peter Pan Cup on the Serpentine

(Oli Scarff/Getty Image)

Every year, while presents are hastily unwrapped in homes across the country, the Serpentine Swimming Club don their trunks and costumes for their annual 100-yard Christmas Day race. While it’s only club members that can swim for the Peter Pan Cup, spectators are more than welcome to come along and watch the athletes brave the icy water — which plunges below 4C (40F) degrees in winter. The race kicks off at 9am; be sure to wrap up warm.

Hyde Park, W2 2UH

Hop onto the One Day Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour

London’s Christmas lights are a pretty spectacular sight and the capital’s famous open top bus is offering guests the chance to take a whistle-stop tour to see the city illuminated this December 25. The bus will pootle past some of London’s most iconic landmarks including the Regent Street lights, the Harrods window display and the towering Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. Tickets are valid from 9am until 4.30pm and can be used on Boxing Day too.

Across London,


Get your skates on at the JW3 ice rink

(Blake Ezra Photography/JW3)

Taking to the ice seems like the perfect way to spend the most festive day of the year, which is just as well, as this north London ice rink seems to be one of the only in the city open on Christmas Day. The outdoor ice rink is surrounded by sparkling lights to put the most stubborn Scrooge in the Christmas spirit. Sessions will run from noon but it’s best to book online in advance to avoid disappointment on the day.

341-351 Finchley Rd, NW3 6ET

Eat Christmas lunch with City Cruises

There’s a lot of yuletide merriment to be had this event on the river experience. Tuck into a four-course turkey dinner while enjoying the spectacular city sights on the move. Festivities will continue with a live singer performing familiar favourites, with ample mulled wine and mince pies to go around.

For more information visit

Volunteer at Jacksons Lane

Christmas is for spending time with loved ones, but the reality is that many people across the capital spend the day alone. Jacksons Lane hosts a Christmas meal for older and disabled people in north London, who would otherwise be spending Christmas Day by themselves. Guests are treated to Christmas dinner, festive tipples, presents and entertainment. The project is entirely volunteer-led, so relies on people willing to cook, drive guests, provide entertainment or give money.

269A Archway Rd, N6 5AA,

Go on the Christmas Day West End walking tour

(Peter Berthoud )

For those that like a bright and early start on the big day, this walking tour could be just the ticket. Starting at 6am, it explores the West End, Mayfair and Soho as well as Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street and Regent Street — just don't expect much life on the streets at that hour. The experience finishes with breakfast and a coffee in a local cafe, as the sun rises on Christmas Day.

For more information and to book tickets visit

Go on a bike ride

Cycling in London can be a perilous business, especially in amongst the rush hour traffic. The Christmas exodus, however, offers a rare opportunity the explore the city’s urban centre on two wheels. London’s roads are never quieter than they are on Christmas Day, meaning you can hop on your bike and roam the streets with barely any disruption, seeing the city in a whole new way. Otherwise, head into one of London’s parks for an even more tranquil voyage.

Head out for a winter walk

(PA Archive/PA Images)

Christmas is a time for eating and drinking until you can eat and drink no more. Work off some of that festive excess with a bracing winter walk around one of London’s glorious green spaces (or, if our Christmas prayers are answered, a snow-covered white space). There are plenty of options: the four-mile circular walk around Hampstead Heath, the five-mile circular stroll of Richmond Park or a peaceful journey through the Royal Parks, from St James’s Park to Hyde Park. For more information and suggestions, check out our guide to the best winter walks in the capital.

Visit a Christmassy pub

‘Tis the season to be boozing and although many pubs in the capital will close on Christmas Day, there are a couple of notable exceptions. The Spaniard’s Inn in Hampstead Heath, the Spread Eagle in Camden and the Pilot in North Greenwich are among the best known boozers keeping their doors open on December 25, providing cosy refuge for festive revellers. What’s more, the ever-dependable Wetherspoons pubs will be staying open all across the city. Time to get merry.

Go to a church service

(Getty Images)

Some of London’s most famous religious landmarks will be holding services on December 25. Westminster Abbey will be hosting Holy Communion, Said Eucharist and Evensong throughout the day. Meanwhile, at St Paul’s Cathedral, there will be Holy Communion and Evensong too, with a Choral Eucharist. Both are free to attend and unticketed, and of course churches all over the city will be putting on their own Christmas services.